Thursday, September 10, 2009

Battle of Tunnel Hill Re-Enactment

Before there was an international airport, railroads made Atlanta a transportation hub.

Rail lines to and from cities across the South made Atlanta a strategic target during the Civil War.

James Andrews and his band of Union raiders unsuccessfully tried to destroy much of the Western and Atlantic Railroad as they rushed northward from Atlanta toward Chattanooga, Tenn., during the "Great Locomotive Chase" in 1862.

One of their targets was supposed to be the 1,477-foot tunnel blasted through Chetoogeta Mountain at appropriately named Tunnel Hill, a town 110 miles north of Atlanta.

Two years after the Andrews Raid, Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s forces and Confederate soldiers fought several times around Tunnel Hill during his 1864 campaign to take Atlanta.

Spectators at this weekend’s battle re-enactment at Tunnel Hill will get a taste of local history at the event, which benefits the Tunnel Hill Historical Foundation and the town’s heritage center, says re-enactment coordinator Ken Sumner.

The 15th annual Battle of Tunnel Hill Civil War Re-enactment will be Sept. 19-20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The battles start at 2 p.m. at 215 Clisby Austin Road.

Sumner says re-enactors can still register, at no cost, by calling him at 678-939-3679.

He said between 500 and 800 re-enactors will take part.

Admission to the re-enactment is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children under 6. The fee includes a tour of the tunnel, which closed in 1928, and admission to the heritage center. By the way, another tunnel nearby currently serves CSX.

Foundation president Janet Cochran told me she hopes the event, which includes school visits on Sept. 18, will raise about $8,000. Much of that will help fund the operation of the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center.

Besides the battles, spectators can buy period food, items from sutlers and learn more about life in the mid-19th century.

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